Microsoft: SMBs have cloud 'perception gap'

Study shows two camps of small and midsize businesses citing costs and security as both benefits and barriers to cloud adoption, leading one Redmond exec to urge vendors to do more to close this "perception gap".

Asia-Pacific's small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that have yet to adopt cloud cite costs and security issues as their main hurdles but companies that have adopted identified these two areas as benefits too, a Microsoft study reveals.

Thus, this perception gap will require vendors to step up their user education efforts, suggests one Redmond executive.

According to the software giant's SMB cloud computing study, which was released Thursday, 24 percent of companies that have transitioned to cloud computing indicated that they were able to reduce their budgets with regard to managing security. Comparatively, only 7 percent of cloud users indicated otherwise.

Additionally, 57 percent of those using cloud say they spend less time managing security, 54 percent saw an improvement in their security measures, and 48 percent said they spent less time worrying about their vulnerability to cyberattacks, the study showed.

These smaller companies also save 26 percent on their overall IT budgets, particularly on being able to increase and decrease IT capacity when needed, and requiring fewer specialized skills and internal IT resources, after moving to cloud, it noted.

The survey, which was commissioned by Microsoft but conducted by ComScore, polled 236 small to midsize business that use cloud services and 163 other such companies that do not between Mar. 12 and Apr. 12 this year. Participating countries include Singapore, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong, and the United States.

Security, cost cloud barriers too
The same benefits that companies using cloud had cited were also the same ones preventing others from jumping on board the bandwagon, though.

The study showed that among non-users of cloud, 46 percent of these SMBs listed concerns over the cost of transition as the main reason for not utilizing it while 44 percent said they were unsure if cloud providers would be able to keep their data secure.

Some 61 percent of these smaller-scale companies said that industry security standards will help them feel more confident about cloud security, and 59 percent said more transparency will give them greater confidence, the study revealed.

What these findings show is that there is a large "perception gap" between both camps of SMBs, noted Adrienne Hall, general manager of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

"SMBs are hesitant to adopt the cloud because they think they will have to give up security and incur extra costs," she said. "However, that is not true because those which have gotten on board have managed to reap benefits."

This is where cloud service providers can "step in and make a difference, she said. Education for these smaller companies on the benefits of cloud computing and vendors striving to meet industry security standards such as ISO27001 are ways service providers can help eliminate the perception gap, Hall stressed.

"SMBs often have a limited amount of resources and a lack of security expertise.[Cloud providers] must show they can take the burden of security from SMBs, which can then focus their efforts on other aspects of the business," the Microsoft executive said.

Redmond, for example, discusses the advantages of adopting cloud on its corporate blogs, thus making sure its SMB clients which have adopted have a good experience and share it with others, she added.